I have been pouring over Ravi Zacharias’ wonderful little book, The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists (Zondervan, 2008). In it, Zacharias gives a brilliant and gracious response to the militant atheism espoused by author Sam Harris in his recently published, Letter to a Christian Nation. Harris stands in the queue of other popular atheistic philosophers such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. In all actuality, there is nothing new in this “new atheism,” as it simply recycles arguments of a worldview devoid of God, leaving humanity to its own devises and vices.
These are weighty matters that have influenced every corner of our culture in academia, entertainment, government, the family, business, science, and technology. And this matters to you and me. The basic questions of the origin and meaning of life, the determination of morality, and the hope for eternity shape our basic worldview, and how we answer those questions defines the course of our existence and how we relate with the world around us.
How important are these matters? Albert Camus (1913-1960) was an atheistic French philosopher who drew his godless worldview to its logical conclusion. In his essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” he wrote these words: “There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.” It is this philosophy that leads to a culture of death, for we are left determining not only whether our life is worth living but also whether someone else’s life is worth living. The Holocaust, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, and other such atrocities are the logical consequence of this atheistic ideology.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), another predecessor to the “new atheists,” described existence without God as living in a world of infinite nothingness. “Lanterns must be lit in the morning hours and sacred games invented to take the place of religious ceremony.” Nietzsche wrote that this world would lead to a “universal madness that would break out when the truth of what mankind had done in killing God dawned on us.” Zacharias informs us that “Nietzsche himself spent the last thirteen years of his life in the darkness of insanity, while his godly mother watched over him by his bedside.”
Where you begin in your understanding of the origin of life determines your destination in the meaning of life. If non-reasoning, non-moral matter is all that existed in the beginning, then we end up with no intentional or moral significance. In other words, if there is no Creator who has given value and meaning to the created order, particularly human life, then there can be no purpose and meaning to existence. We are left with no point of reference to determine morality (right vs. wrong) and no answers to the ultimate questions that form in the depths of our souls.
Atheist Stephen Jay Gould once wrote, “We may yearn for a `higher’ answer—but none exists.” This sounds similar to an exchange between famed atheistic philosopher Michel Foucault and a student:
Student: Should I take chances with my life?
Foucault: By all means! Take risks; go out on a limb!
Student: But I yearn for solutions.
Foucault: There are no solutions.
Student: Then at least some answers.
Foucault: There are no answers.
No God, no meaning. No meaning, no answers. No answers, no hope. Nihilism leads to despair which leads to a culture of death.
Followers of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, celebrate a culture of life, for they do not live as those without hope. We believe that “in the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1), and this God is a God of love who created us in His image (Genesis 1:27). God has given us meaning and purpose, but we rebelled against Him by attempting to usurp His loving lordship. We were separated from Christ, “having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). Therefore, we cast off despair that leads to death and we are “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). And that, my friends, is an answer worth living for and a reason worth dying for.